Seeking Solace

An attitude of gratitude goes a long way

More stories from Julia Van Allen

Seeking Solace
May 13, 2019

Have an attitude of gratitude. I saw this phrase while scrolling through Instagram, procrastinating as per usual, and stopped to think: Gratitude is a powerful mindset, so why don’t people spend more time being grateful for what they have?

Gratitude doesn’t have to focus on the material possessions that take up space in life. The way I see gratitude involves the conscious acknowledgment of the opportunities, people and gifts we’ve been given. When I say gifts, I mean non-physical gifts.

I’ve begun to view the ability to do what I love, mainly write, as a gift. I see the love I have for my family and friends as a gift. Heck, even weather fluctuations can be a gift. By weather fluctuations, I do not mean experiencing every season within one week, that was awful and these massive snow storms out of nowhere make me cry. Moving on.

I know sometimes I feel like nothing is going right in life. My grades don’t turn out how I expect them to, my own expectations get in the way and I struggle to see where anything is taking a turn for the positive. Times like these are the ones that need gratitude the most.

I don’t see gratitude as a practice only for when things are going right, gratitude should be a constant, even when life is falling apart.

I’m testing myself to be grateful for the things that aren’t perfect. I’m grateful for that less than perfect grade because it teaches me that I can work harder in the future. I’m grateful for unmet expectations because they teach me that life doesn’t always follow my playbook.

I’m grateful for the days that spiral out of control because they show me that even when everything is going to hell, I’m still standing.

Practicing gratitude has shown me that I’m stronger than I think I am.

In my attempts to be grateful for everything going on in life, I’ve found a few practices very helpful. From an article by the Positive Psychology Program, I’ve picked out journaling and reflection.

I’ve kept journals since I was a kid, so adapting my journaling style to include daily bouts of gratitude seemed like the best way to seamlessly incorporate gratitude into my daily life. Reflection seemed to tie in nicely with the previous action of journaling, as it’s pretty hard to analyze one’s life without reflecting backward and inward.

I’ve noticed since starting this self-care journey that I perceive challenges differently now than I did in the beginning. Sure, there are still moments that a mid-April snowstorm makes me want to curl up under a fluffy blanket and avoid going outside for a month, but the daily challenges associated with life as a college student don’t feel as imposing anymore. Each struggle as I finish up my degree is an exciting challenge to face rather than some ominous force trying to tear me down.

The message I want to share is this: gratitude teaches a person how to view the negative things in life through a different lens. It pushes people to grow in ways that they weren’t expecting.

However, being grateful for the things that go wrong in life feels counterproductive. Why would I be grateful for being late, for catching a nasty cold or for tripping over my own two feet?

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as I would like it to be. It makes sense to be grateful for the things that go right, but being grateful for the things that don’t is just as important. Life isn’t composed entirely of happiness, so it just doesn’t make sense why we don’t acknowledge the bad times alongside the good.

I’m not pretending that I have everything figured out — far from it, actually — but I know that I’m preparing myself to accept and move forward through life’s trials and tribulations.

Get outside and enjoy this weather, Blugolds. I hope the sun is finally here to stay.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected].